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Bodies and My Flesh

Bodies and My Flesh

(p.40) 2 Bodies and My Flesh
On Descartes' Passive Thought
Jean-Luc Marion, Christina M. Gschwandtner
University of Chicago Press

The second chapter demonstrates that Descartes draws a distinction between “my body” (or the body proper) and other bodies, that is, external things. My own body is not an external, corporeal thing and need not be proved, because its existence is self-evident and cannot be doubted. The ego thinks also corporeally, as a flesh closely united to its mind, more even than a pilot is united to his ship. This connection is particularly obvious in the experience of pain where I suffer my flesh. Husserl abandoned his Cartesian path too quickly, neglecting to see that Descartes already draws the distinction between body and flesh Husserl advocates and that sensation functions as a kind of knowledge for Descartes. By knowing what is external via sensation through the flesh of my body, Descartes anticipates Heidegger’s category of Zuhandenheit, although Heidegger chides him for reducing everything to Vorhandenheit. Descartes distinguishes these two categories under other names and hence emerges as a phenomenologist before his time. Furthermore, sensation comes to me within my flesh and the existence of material things depends on the prior union of soul and body. This third term of meum corpus is able to ground the existence of material things.

Keywords:   union, flesh, meum corpus, Husserl, Heidegger

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